The Guatemalan parents of an immigrant man shot dead by San Francisco police have filed suit in federal court, accusing two officers of excessive force and the police chief and city of failing in their training and oversight responsibilities.
Amilcar Perez Lopez, 20, died on the evening of Feb. 26 after plainclothes police officers shot him six times in San Francisco’s trendy Mission District. Police have said Perez Lopez had acted erratically and threatened officers with a knife.
The complaint filed on Friday in U.S. District Court referred to a television interview given from the scene by San Francisco Police Chief Greg Suhr, who told KCBS-TV that Perez Lopez “lunged at the officer with knife overhead.”
But the lawsuit asserted that Perez Lopez, a construction worker and Guatemalan immigrant, was trying to flee from a man who was taunting him when two plainclothes policemen grabbed him from behind.
Because they “wore civilian clothing, and did not identify themselves, Amilcar was not able to determine that the men were police officers,” the lawsuit said.
When Perez Lopez wriggled free from the grip of one of the officers, one policeman fired five shots into his back, and other fired one shot into the back of his head, according to the lawsuit. The suit did not explicitly address the police allegation that the man was carrying a knife.
The complaint added that the two officers had shown a previous propensity for excessive force, saying both were defendants in a federal civil rights lawsuit in 2009 filed by a man who alleged he was beaten with a baton. That case was later settled out of court, according to the lawsuit.
Speaking in Spanish via an Internet hookup from their home in Guatemala, the parents of Perez Lopez told reporters in San Francisco on Friday that they never expected their son would be killed by police when they sent him to the United States to live, according to the Bay City News service.
His immigration status was not made clear.
A spokesperson for the San Francisco Police Department declined to discuss the lawsuit. No one from the San Francisco City Attorney was immediately available to comment.
(Reporting by Emmett Berg; Editing by Steve Gorman)